Park51's Tactless Tweets

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Facing questions about their project's tact and appropriateness, the last thing organizers of the Park51 community center needed yesterday was for the official @Park51 Twitter feed to becomes, yes, tactless and inappropriate. That's what seems to have happened yesterday though, courtesy of an overzealous intern, the project's newly sedate Twitter feed explains. And while the offending Tweets have been scrubbed, their snarkiness and overt use of the 'jazzhands' hashtag still has the Internet buzzing.

  • Biggest Blunder News Buster's Alana Goodman says the low-point of the rogue intern's tweetspree may have been a subsequently deleted remark "mocking [Israeli newspaper] Ha'aretz with references to Jewish culture." Here's what the original said: "On a side note, if Haaretz likes publishing fables, perhaps they could go back to the Yiddish ones with parables #welikethosebetter"
  • Disturbing The day's events left conservative blogger Kathleen McKinley could only scratch her head. "I have followed it from the beginning," writes McKinley, "and my primary reaction to it is that I can't believe how unprofessional [it] is. [It] is snarky and condescending. Not good attributes for someone who wishes to create an 'inter-faith dialogue.'"
  • Not Helping Themselves  Politico's Ben Smith said the "hyperactive Twitter feed" was the latest part of Park51's "unusual media strategy." With leader Iman Feisal Rauf traveling in Malaysia, Smith writes that "organizers have left most of the defense to surrogates, often mid-level Democratic politicians like the Mayor of Teaneck, N.J. and the Manhattan Borough President."
  • Too Cool for the Room  Capital New York's Gillian Reagan suggests Park51 social media director Oz Sultan fundamentally misjudged the composition of his tweetstream. Writes Reagan:
A native of the New York social media scene, Sultan treated Park51's tweetstream as a means of communication with the natives on Twitter, who'd have gotten the "snark" without blinking, notwithstanding the fact that the tweeting was being done in the name of an institution in the thick of a overheated, international public-relations crisis.

But the positioning of these tweets also reflects the general, easy multiculturalism of Manhattan elites. Just as many private school students of the Upper East Side are already familiar with the Cordoba Initiative from any number of interfaith school field-trips, Jews, Muslims, Christians and ethnic majorities and minorities trade an easy banter about cultural difference that would be hard for a blogger from Omaha to relate to.

Whichever intern posted the "fables" tweet returned to the well to explain that a Jewish aunt had told a lot of these sorts of parables in his or her youth; true or not, relevant or not, the explanation would likely have been unnecessary for a tweetstream with an exclusively New York audience.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.